An international contest is looking for ‘ambitious and creative’ ideas to transform London into a national park city
Open to student and professional architects, landscape architects and urban planners, the competition seeks proposals to upgrade London’s natural infrastructure and integrate its gardens, streets, rivers, buildings and parks into a single landscape.
The initiative, backed by Time Out London and The London National Park City Foundation, aims to enhance the 1,572 km2 city by adopting the principles of the UK’s existing rural national parks: better conservation, better enjoyment and better economy – for the benefit of its 8.6 million residents.
Campaign co-ordinator and guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison said: ‘We want to attract the best ideas for transforming the quality of life in London by making it a national park city. We’d love to see visionary ideas not just for new developments, but which reimagine London’s current cityscape. Ideas can be small-scale and design in tiny changes to Londoners’ lives that will have a big impact, or they could be large scale, imagining changes to streetscapes, neighbourhoods, or the whole watershed.
‘The important thing is that designers are doing what they do best to imagine a greener city where Londoners are actively involved in making decisions and improving their environments; enjoying nature and urban wildlife. It’s not just about the green though. We’d like people to take a look at the London National Park City website and then let their imaginations go to work … be bold, be brilliant!’
London is England’s most populous city and the largest city within Europe. It features around 16,000ha of open green spaces – around 40 per cent of its total surface area.
Key green assets include the eight former royal hunting grounds – Green Park , St. James’s Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent’s Park, Bushy Park, and Richmond Park (pictured) – which together represent nearly 2,000ha of greenery.
The city also hosts hundreds of urban garden squares, council-run parks, commons, heaths, forests, river path walks, and greenways.
The ideas competition invites artists, designers, illustrators, cartographers, urbanists, film-makers, developers, architects and landscape architects to help craft a large-scale and long-term vision for the city as a new national park.
Proposals may focus on individual developments and green micro-interventions or the capital’s entire cityscape. The contest also encourages facilities such a green corridors, neighbourhoods and play spaces, which improve air quality, increase biodiversity, boost community cohesion, improve mental health and combat childhood obesity.
Applications must include a high-resolution image and short textual description. Entries will be judged on their quality, ability to capture the national park city idea, potential to inspire and overall deliverability and scalability.
Judges will include the London-based writer Will Self, Andrew Grant of Grant Associates, Ben Smith from AECOM, Pat Fitzsimons of the Thames Estuary Partnership and Alison Prendiville from the London College of Communication.
The winners, set to be announced on 5 June, will receive prizes and see their visions publicised in London Time Out magazine and on the London National Park City website.
The deadline for applications is 19 May.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Ben Smith, trustee of the London National Park City Foundation and director of sustainable development at AECOM.
Why are you holding an ideas contest to re-imagine London as a national park city?
Our ambition for this competition is to inspire the best global design talent to re-imagine London as a national park city. We want to see a range of proposals that respond and contribute to the aims of the national park city.
We are keen to see ideas for future urban developments as well as re-imaginations of London’s current cityscape. Ideas can be small scale with potential for big impact, or large scale and transformative.
Ideas might visualise the greening of a community garden or balcony, imagine a new or improved children’s play space or promote the regeneration of a dis-used piece of land in a neighbourhood. Alternatively you might have an idea for a pan-London initiative that could deliver improvements to air quality, biodiversity, road congestion, community cohesion, mental health or childhood obesity?
The national park city has already inspired photo contests, mass art projects, conferences, business ideas, research and capacity building…but this is our first design competition. We are excited about receiving inputs from the global design community to help evolve our vision of London as a national park city. Get involved!
What is your vision for London as a future national park city?
In the simplest terms a national park city applies the principles of a national park to a city.
It is our vision that when London is a national park city, residents, communities and businesses will work together to: Make London Greener, Make more of London’s outdoor heritage and Make a new National Park City identity for London. This further breaks down to:
- Improving the richness, connectivity and biodiversity of London’s habitats
- Improving London’s air and water quality, year on year
- Improving health and connecting 100% of London’s children to nature
- Ensuring 100% of Londoners have free and easy access to high quality green space
- Inspiring new business activities
- Promoting London as a Green World City
To deliver on these aims we will need to become experts in promoting collaboration and innovation. We already know that the design community (including architects, landscape architects, engineers, planners and consultants) will be crucial in unlocking the potential of the national park city, and we believe the national park city will also serve as a catalyst for broader sustainable development including innovation in sustainable housing, technology integration and education around sustainable lifestyles.
North london reservoirs
Source: Image by Luke Massey & the Greater London National Park City
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
Our competition, just like our vision for London as a national park city, is open to everyone! We are hoping for a wide range of applications from a large and diverse group. Individuals and groups from universities, companies and other organizations are all free to submit their ideas. Our call for entries calls for artists, designers, illustrators, cartographers, urbanists, film-makers, developers, architects and landscape architects – but anybody who can help to visualise London as a national part city is welcome to submit their ideas. We will work hard to publicise the best entries. They will feature on the national park city website, will be promoted through our social media handles and will be released to the media in June 2017. They may also appear in Time Out magazine.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects be procured?
London is constantly changing and developing. The London Plan and associated guidance sets out the policy context for new development in London. In terms of new development, much of the ambition for the national park city overlaps and aligns with many of the policies promoted through the London Plan. Considering how to embed natural capital into new development is important for design teams working in London. Ideas explored for this competition are likely to have broader relevance – whether you’re submitting a university thesis, designing a new piece of public realm for London or about to start work on a masterplan for a high profile transformational London development scheme.
Are there any other similar projects involving the green infrastructure you have been impressed by?
Of course, we are constantly inspired by projects that others are leading all over London, and internationally. We don’t want to point to project precedents; the design community will understand what represents best practice for London. Free your imagination!
Source: Image by Luke Massey & the Greater London National Park City